As PSU head coach Joe Paterno turned 79 years old Wednesday, he received the news that he had been selected as Coach of the Year by both the Associated Press and The Sporting News. The Nittany Turkey didn’t bring anything to Joe’s low key birthday party, primarily because he wasn’t invited, but I wish to make amends by declaring Joe the winner of the Nittany Turkey Phoenix Award for taking the necessary steps to revive a program that many thought was permanently mired in the ashes of mediocrity. (There is no actual trophy because Joe doesn’t like anyone making a fuss over him—in other words, the Turkey is too cheap to fund the purchase of a one-time award. But I digress…)
The Associated Press voting wasn’t even close. JoePa received 45 votes, followed by Mack Brown of Texas with eight, USC’s Pete Carroll and Notre Dame’s Charlie Weis, both with three, and Rich Rodriguez of West Virginia, with two. The Sporting News award is decided upon by the editorial staff.
There is no doubt that Joe deserves these awards for the job he did leading the Nittany Lions out of the depths of 3–8 and 4–7 seasons to a 10–1 record and a #3 regular season finish this year. In typically humble Paterno fashion, he commented:
“It’s very flattering,” Paterno said. “I think anytime, regardless of whether it be my first year or my 50th year, to have people recognize what’s been done is very, very… uplifting. The only thing I feel sometimes is that the head coach gets too much credit. I think sometimes it ought to be coaching staff of the year.”
Nevertheless, the Nittany Turkey congratulates Joe on receiving these well deserved kudos and on beginning his 80th year on this Earth.